Livyatan

Name: Livyatan ‭(‬Leviathan‭).
Phonetic: Liv-ya-tan.
Named By: Lambert et al.‭ ‬-‭ ‬2010.
Homonym: Leviathan melvillei.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Mammalia,‭ ‬Cetacea,‭ ‬Physeteroidea.
Species: L.‭ ‬melvillei (type).
Diet: Carnivore.
Size: Skull is‭ ‬3‭ ‬meters long.‭ ‬Total size estimates vary between‭ ‬13.5‭ ‬and‭ ‬17.5‭ ‬meters long.
Known locations: Peru‭ ‬-‭ ‬Pisco Formation.
Time period: Serravallian stage of the Miocene of the Neogene.
Fossil representation: Partial preserved skull,‭ ‬mandible‭ (‬lower jaw‭) ‬and teeth.

       When first described Livyatan was actually named Leviathan after the biblical sea monster.‭ ‬Unfortunately however Leviathan had already been used to name a mastodon now known as Mammut‭ (‬Leviathan is actually a synonym to this genus,‭ ‬but still cannot be used‭)‬.‭ ‬As such the Hebrew word for Leviathan,‭ ‬Livyatan,‭ ‬is now used to refer to this ancient whale.‭ ‬The species name,‭ ‬L.‭ ‬melvillei is in honour of the author Herman Melville,‭ ‬the man who wrote the world famous novel‭ '‬Moby Dick‭'‬.
       Because only the skull is known,‭ ‬Livyatan is often compared to the sperm whale‭ (‬Physeter macrocephalus‭) ‬when piecing together the rest of the body.‭ ‬This has yielded size estimates of thirteen and a half meters which make Livyatan a comparable size to the megatoothed sharks like Carcharocles angustidens.‭ ‬However Livyatan has also been compared to another prehistoric whale named Zygophyseter,‭ ‬and this resulted in an estimate of seventeen and a half meters.‭ ‬If accurate then this would make Livyatan comparable to even C.‭ ‬megalodon,‭ ‬the largest shark to ever swim the ocean.‭ ‬In fact for a time both Livyatan and C.‭ ‬megalodon would have swam in the same oceans.
       Not only was Livyatan an apex predator like C.‭ ‬megalodon,‭ ‬it probably fed upon the same prey animals which were medium sized baleen whales.‭ ‬Smaller juvenile Livyatan may have preferred proportionately smaller prey items like the smaller cetaceans or even large fish.‭ ‬With teeth that were thirty-six centimetres long,‭ ‬Livyatan had the dentition to take down large prey items.‭ ‬In fact not only were the teeth of Livyatan considerably larger than C.‭ ‬megalodon teeth,‭ ‬they are considered to be the largest known teeth for the purpose of eating.‭ ‬Granted some animals like elephant have modified teeth that form tusks which are even bigger,‭ ‬but they are useless for processing food in the mouth so in this case they do not count as the largest.‭ ‬Livyatan also had teeth in both the upper and lower jaws for grasping prey‭ (‬the modern sperm whale,‭ ‬the closest living analogy to Livyatan,‭ ‬only has teeth on the lower jaw‭)‬.
       How Livyatan hunted it still a matter of debate,‭ ‬but given its large mouth and teeth it may have used a similar method to kill smaller whales as C.‭ ‬megalodon did.‭ ‬This could be approaching from the bottom and slamming into its target from underneath.‭ ‬An associated method could also be trapping the smaller whale’s rib cage in its jaws and crushing the ribs to create fatal injuries to the internal organs.‭ ‬Another method could see Livyatan holding down a whale beneath the surface to stop it surfacing for air.‭ ‬This is a strategy that would be potentially risky for Livyatan as it too would still need to surface to breathe air,‭ ‬but assuming Livyatan could hold its breath for longer than its prey,‭ ‬it would still be a viable strategy.‭
       Livyatan is morphologically similar to the modern sperm whale,‭ ‬and this has brought comparisons between the two for head function.‭ ‬Livyatan is thought to have had a spermaceti organ that would have been filled with wax and oil.‭ ‬This has also inferred the possibility that Livyatan may have used echolocation to find its prey.



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